Search engines are only as good as the content

Beagles are the search engines of the airport. Unlike Google, they sniff out the bad stuff, like drugs and explosives.

"Google is good but it's not God" says Gerry McGovern. He reminds us of the old cultists who cried in the wilderness for an intranet portal, guaranteed to solve all problems. He sees a new cult today that believes in a magic search engine that will eliminate all need for navigation and classification -- even write quality content and remove out-of-date content.

Nice thought. One click and you're done. But nope: hard work is required to make content and metadata search friendly. Moreover, a search engine is never enough: humans use both search and navigation to find the content they want.

Search engine cultists believe you should write for the search engine, and hey, if you're lucky the audience will like what they find. Wrong! All search engine optimisation gurus emphasise the primacy of valuable, carefully constructed content as a search engine magnet.

Jill Whalen, veteran SEO guru, said in her Webstock08 workshop 

Search engines give weight to important content. Speak to your audience: solve their problem, answer their questions. Write for users first, and keep search engines in mind.

This is not new. It has always been thus. But the idea of a magic SEO trick is so seductive, the truth needs to be repeated year after year. From Gerry:

It's down to that old computing adage: garbage in, garbage out. If your website is full of badly structured, poorly written, out-of-date garbage, then the first result, the second result, and the third result from your fancy new search engine will always be garbage.

There's no one-shot magic spell for search engine optimisation of intranet content. But CONTENTED courses come close, training you to write content with a structure, focus and language that search engines love.



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